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    From environmental to ecological to multispecies and finally planetary justice we trace and evaluate conservative to radical political theories’ attempts to include the nonhuman or more-than-human realms in the spheres of justice.

    How can politics establish a robust system of protections for the environment? In this paper we will explore that question through the lens of justice theory – or rather through a range of theories of justice. We’ll ask questions like: What work does the idea of justice do? Is it only humans who can be subjects of justice? If we think we can extend justice to other beings then are there limits, and how do we ascertain the limits to who or what can be a subject of justice? We’ll traverse the fields of environmental, ecological, multispecies/multibeing and planetary justice and think about the value each brings to decrease animal cruelty, species extinctions, eco-systemic collapse and destruction. And finally we will think about how the ideas embedded in theories of justice for the environment might be institutionalised.

    About this paper

    Paper title Political Theory for the Environment
    Subject Politics
    EFTS 0.2500
    Points 30 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,860.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    72 300-level POLS points
    POLS 413
    Students without these prerequisites may apply for special consideration from the Head of Programme.

    POLS 513 Prerequisite 72 300-level POLS points.

    Restriction POLS 413

    On Campus only.


    Teaching staff

    Dr Christine Winter

    Paper Structure

    The paper traces the ways that the environment has be included in theories of justice over the past half century. It considers the problems each approach attempts to solve, the limitations of the evolving approaches, and thinks some of the cutting edges and innovative approaches that are currently being theorised to bring the environment into the spheres of justice as a subject in its own right. Throughout the programme we take a critical approach to theory – that means thinking about who/what is included or left out and why.

    • Week 1: Philosophical and Environmental foundations,
    • Week 2: Environmental justice – the beginnings.
    • Week 3: Environmental justice – distribution, recognition, participation and capabilities.
    • Week 4: Critical Environmental justice theory.
    • Week 5: Environmental justice and sentient animals.
    • Week 6: Group work – preparation for MSJ Constitutionalism.
    • Week 7: Ecological justice.
    • Week 8: Multispecies justice and sentience.
    • Week 9: Multispecies justice beyond sentience.
    • Week 10: Planetary justice and the planetary boundaries.
    • Week 11: Planetary justice and global systems governance.
    • Week 12: MSJ Constitutionalism - presentations.
    • Week 13: Essay work.
    Teaching Arrangements

    Students are expected to actively contribute to the learning environment, including leading seminars throughout the semester.


    There is no set text for this course.Students will be given access via the library to key readings for each week.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    This paper gives the students the opportunity to develop the following attributes:

    Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Demonstrate familiarity with key debates within environmental, multispecies and planetary political theory.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the reasons for a progression from environmental justice to multispecies and planetary justice.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical history and foundations of environmental political philosophies.
    • Engage with and understand the importance of decolonial and critical race critiques of political theory, mātauranga Māori and the principles of kaitiakitanga.
    • Produce independent research of a high quality, using combining analysis of two environmental political theories with critical assessment of empirical data that demonstrates some aspect of ecological collapse.
    • Develop a framework for institutionalising multispecies or planetary justice through a constitutional structure (500 level students only)
    • Demonstrate an ability to engage with others in small discussion settings, with the opportunity to engage in teamwork, constructive discussions, debates, and scenarios.
    • Apply their understanding and knowledge and develop their organizational skills leading part of the weekly seminar.


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Wednesday 14:00-16:50 9-13, 15-22
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